Imagine a sound from which you could never escape. A constant ringing or buzzing in your ear that followed you from the moment you woke, through the day, and as long as it could into the night. A sound that only you could hear.
Or maybe ordinary sounds that are too loud for you but no one around you. Sounds that become unbearable but are all around you?
If you think it sounds like torture, you could be right. But these are conditions that affect millions of people around the world every single day – hearing health problems called tinnitus and hyperacusis. And they are conditions that could affect mental health in severe ways according to experts.
What are tinnitus and hyperacusis?
Tinnitus is considered one of the most common health conditions in the United States now, affecting approximately 15% of people. Experts eager to find solutions to this as yet incurable diagnosis, continue to research underlying causes, potential cures and strategies to manage it most effectively.
The most common causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Associated medical conditions
- Head injuries
- Noise exposure
Similar to tinnitus is another hearing disorder known as hyperacusis. This more rare condition is no less distressing. It causes everyday sounds to seem too loud for comfort thanks to exaggerated information from the brain in response to sound vibrations. Approximately 1 in 50,000 people are affected by hyperacusis. Often in addition to their tinnitus.
The effects of these inescapable hearing conditions can be devastating according to research and now also a new survey out of the United Kingdom.
The impact of tinnitus on mental health
It’s not hard to believe that living with these conditions can have serious effects on health. Both have been linked to anxiety and depression, but a recent article is now highlighting just how dangerous these links can be.
According to the article, individuals with tinnitus and/or hyperacusis who went to National Health Service (NHS) clinics in the United Kingdom were surveyed about suicidal thoughts. The patients were asked, “Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way?”
The answers the patients gave underscored the importance of treatment, support and other strategies to help individuals with these hearing issues manage them while maintaining their mental health. Many of the patients reported “suicidal or self-harmful ideations.”
How to manage tinnitus for better mental health
With this and previous studies on the effects of tinnitus and similar hearing issues on health and well-being, there is little doubt of just how serious they can be when left untreated.
If you think you are affected by tinnitus or hyperacusis, contact your hearing health care provider today for the best treatment options. These may include:
- Hearing aids
- Sound therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Acupuncture and Alternative Therapies
- Relaxation Therapy
- Medication (in some cases this may be effective)
If you believe you are experiencing anxiety or depression, or have had self-harming thoughts, contact your physician or someone you trust to seek help.